They were also so close in concept to a tv show or a movie that my first thought was derivative.
Derivative is a word that should send shivers down your spine cause you do not ever want to hear it applied to your work.
Derivative is NOT plagiarism. Plagiarism is stealing the exact work of another.
Derivative is more subtle. It's using a concept, but NOT giving it a new twist.
There are only seven* basic plots in the world so every book is going to have something in common with 1/7 of the novels being published. That's NOT derivative.
Derivative is that elements of the plot: characters, what unfolds, the twists, the ending are similar (not exact.)
If you read something derivative, you're not ever surprised, even at a plot twist because you've read or seen something similar before.
Here's the really scary part of derivative: almost every writer starts out doing derivative work. It's akin to student painters studiously copying masterworks at the Met.
It's a part of the learning process.
The problem comes when you don't recognize this novel that you've poured months if not years of hard work into hasn't moved beyond what's already been done. I know this and believe me when I tell you that telling someone their work isn't fresh and new is not something I ever want to do again. Ever.
So, how do you avoid derivative?
KNOW YOUR CANON.
Ask your beta readers.
And think honestly about your work. Are you building on the work of others or just repeating it?
Here's the best example I can know of an artist creating something fresh and new from earlier work.
The instantly recognizable opening riff of Layla.
And the acoustic version.
Same musician both times.
But, adding to the body of work, a twist, a surprise a fresh look at a much loved classic.
Contest results tomorrow (Tuesday 4/9)
*this number is the subject of a lot of debate.
I use seven cause that's what I think it is.